Around one third of our day should be spent asleep, enabling our body to rest, recover and rebuild, therefore sleep problems can be very disrupting to our lives. They can be very difficult to treat yourself. Medical herbalists can use a wide range of herbs to help improve the condition.
People may have problems falling asleep or staying asleep. There can be a myriad of causes for these problems, and therefore a number of remedies and changes in lifestyle that may be used to treat them.
A number of herbs have been used traditionally to help improve sleep quality. Some of them may have a sedative action, encouraging sleep, however many of them simply have a relaxing action, making them useful through the day to prevent stress building up and encouraging a restful sleep. Many of the herbs may be taken in the form of a herbal tea (a relaxing end to the day), but may also be recommended in capsule or tincture (alcoholic extract) form.
Herbs do not need to be taken internally to help with sleep, lavender and hop flowers can be used in a sachet under the pillow, essential oils may be vaporised in the bedroom or herbal teas can be added to the bath.
Sometimes more than relaxation is required to treat the cause of the insomnia. Digestive upset, pain, hormonal changes, itchy skin are just a few of the reasons for poor sleep, the herbalist will aim to address the cause directly.
Lifestyle and dietary advice is often required when treating insomnia, this may include: reducing stimulants (coffee, tea or fizzy drinks) in the evening; not eating immediately before bedtime; making the last activity before bed a relaxing one (e.g. a bath or reading); trying to have a regular time for both going to bed and rising from it; keeping the bedroom dark.